Human Rights Watch is reporting that authorities in Yaoundé, Cameroon, shut down a human-rights workshop just as it was starting because LGBT issues were on the agenda.
Though Camaroon’s constitution protects freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, homosexual acts are still illegal in the African country. (In November, two men were sentenced to five years in prison after being discovered having sex in a car.) The regional sub-prefect, who had originally given the green light for the March 27 gathering, reversed his decision when he discovered gay rights would be among the topics under discussion.
Participants told Human Rights Watch that shortly after they arrived at the hotel, local youth, described by a participant as “thugs,” arrived. A representative of the Cameroonian Youth Rally—an anti-gay youth organization with no public authority or policing powers— arrived with a group of young men and told participants, “Leave, this meeting is not going to take place.” Shortly thereafter, police, gendarmes and civilian authorities—including the prefect of Mfoundi and the Yaoundé sub-prefect who had authorized the meeting—arrived and dispersed participants.
Participants told Human Rights Watch that the sub-prefect claimed that he had authorized a meeting that was to address HIV/AIDS, not a meeting at which homosexuality would be discussed. “They said it was illegal to talk about homosexuality because homosexuality is illegal,” one participant said.
Activist Stéphane Koche, who was helping to organize the event, was arrested and detained for three hours before being released without being charged.